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“Diplomacy is not about being nice, polite or agreeable. It is fundamentally about protecting and promoting the country’s interests, preferably by being nice but, if necessary, by other appropriate means.” —Bilahari Kausikan Small states are always vulnerable. It is this sense of vulnerability that keeps Singapore alert. As a small country in Southeast Asia seeking to surv “Diplomacy is not about being nice, polite or agreeable. It is fundamentally about protecting and promoting the country’s interests, preferably by being nice but, if necessary, by other appropriate means.” —Bilahari Kausikan Small states are always vulnerable. It is this sense of vulnerability that keeps Singapore alert. As a small country in Southeast Asia seeking to survive and prosper, Singapore cannot be ordinary. It must be extraordinary. Otherwise, why would anyone want to deal with Singapore rather than with larger countries? Herein lies the central challenge for Singapore in every area, including foreign policy. Singapore is Not An Island: Views on Singapore Foreign Policy is a compilation of essays and public speeches by Bilahari Kausikan over the last 25 years. His is a frank and ispassionate assessment of the geopolitical realities to date, and the uncertainties that have emerged. It is for anyone interested to know about protecting Singapore’s interests, nicely or otherwise, in a rapidly changing and complex world. The book, to be launched on 21 June 2017 by Professor S Jayakumar, will be supported by an aggressive print advertisement campaign in The Straits Times, Business Times and The New Paper from 22 to 30 June 2017. “Bilahari is one of the finest minds in Singapore’s public service. His unvarnished analysis of foreign policy trends is refreshing as are his thoughts on what they portend for Singapore. This collection should interest anyone who seeks an insight to Singapore’s foreign policy.” —Prof S Jayakumar, Former Senior Minister (2009-2011), Deputy Prime Minister (2004–2009) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1994–2004), Singapore About the Author | Bilahari P S Kausikan is a veteran Singapore diplomat who retired in 2013, after serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for 32 years. He was Second Permanent Secretary and subsequently Permanent Secretary of MFA from 2001 to 2013. He is now Ambassador-at-Large. Bilahari is known nationally and internationally for his strategic analyses, and has a following in international foreign policy circles. He has also established a reputation in social media circles, especially among young Singaporeans. About the Editor | Tan Lian Choo joined The Straits Times in 1973 and later reported extensively on Southeast Asia. Winner of the Asia Press Foundation Mitsubishi Asian Journalist of the Year 1984, she was conferred the 1990 Asean Award for Communication for her outstanding achievements and contributions to journalism. In 1995, she joined MFA, serving as the ministry’s first Director of Public Affairs, Spokesperson for the Ministry and Press Secretary to the Foreign Minister. Her latter overseas diplomatic assignments included being Singapore’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO in Paris (2007–2009) and Head of Mission, Singapore Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil (2012–2015). She retired from the Singapore Foreign Service in 2015.


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“Diplomacy is not about being nice, polite or agreeable. It is fundamentally about protecting and promoting the country’s interests, preferably by being nice but, if necessary, by other appropriate means.” —Bilahari Kausikan Small states are always vulnerable. It is this sense of vulnerability that keeps Singapore alert. As a small country in Southeast Asia seeking to surv “Diplomacy is not about being nice, polite or agreeable. It is fundamentally about protecting and promoting the country’s interests, preferably by being nice but, if necessary, by other appropriate means.” —Bilahari Kausikan Small states are always vulnerable. It is this sense of vulnerability that keeps Singapore alert. As a small country in Southeast Asia seeking to survive and prosper, Singapore cannot be ordinary. It must be extraordinary. Otherwise, why would anyone want to deal with Singapore rather than with larger countries? Herein lies the central challenge for Singapore in every area, including foreign policy. Singapore is Not An Island: Views on Singapore Foreign Policy is a compilation of essays and public speeches by Bilahari Kausikan over the last 25 years. His is a frank and ispassionate assessment of the geopolitical realities to date, and the uncertainties that have emerged. It is for anyone interested to know about protecting Singapore’s interests, nicely or otherwise, in a rapidly changing and complex world. The book, to be launched on 21 June 2017 by Professor S Jayakumar, will be supported by an aggressive print advertisement campaign in The Straits Times, Business Times and The New Paper from 22 to 30 June 2017. “Bilahari is one of the finest minds in Singapore’s public service. His unvarnished analysis of foreign policy trends is refreshing as are his thoughts on what they portend for Singapore. This collection should interest anyone who seeks an insight to Singapore’s foreign policy.” —Prof S Jayakumar, Former Senior Minister (2009-2011), Deputy Prime Minister (2004–2009) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1994–2004), Singapore About the Author | Bilahari P S Kausikan is a veteran Singapore diplomat who retired in 2013, after serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for 32 years. He was Second Permanent Secretary and subsequently Permanent Secretary of MFA from 2001 to 2013. He is now Ambassador-at-Large. Bilahari is known nationally and internationally for his strategic analyses, and has a following in international foreign policy circles. He has also established a reputation in social media circles, especially among young Singaporeans. About the Editor | Tan Lian Choo joined The Straits Times in 1973 and later reported extensively on Southeast Asia. Winner of the Asia Press Foundation Mitsubishi Asian Journalist of the Year 1984, she was conferred the 1990 Asean Award for Communication for her outstanding achievements and contributions to journalism. In 1995, she joined MFA, serving as the ministry’s first Director of Public Affairs, Spokesperson for the Ministry and Press Secretary to the Foreign Minister. Her latter overseas diplomatic assignments included being Singapore’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO in Paris (2007–2009) and Head of Mission, Singapore Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil (2012–2015). She retired from the Singapore Foreign Service in 2015.

30 review for Singapore Is Not An Island: Views On Singapore Foreign Policy

  1. 5 out of 5

    SH Chong

    An education in foreign policy - cold blooded in analysis. Many core ideas are repeated in the compilation of essays. But as child educators put it, repetition is good for children, in this case children learning statecraft.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicky Lim

    Great writing style that makes it an enjoyable read. Because the book is a collection of articles and opinion pieces, there are frequent repetition of ideas. However, this does not make it a bore. If anything, it helps drive Bilahari's point on certain issues. For example: US presence in East Asia, their position as a global power, the protean idea of democracy, etc. Will recommend anyone with an interest in Foreign Policy, Singapore or Global Affairs. Not the best first book to the subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    So Phia Ong

    Trippingly written, I laughed out loud at some of Bilahari's turns of phrase. Gave me a new perspective on the Korean Peninsula problem - does anyone really want reunification? My main bugbear is with the structure. This really isn’t designed to be read in one sitting. As others have pointed out, many ideas and turns of phrase are repeated across several speeches. The division of chapters is perfunctory and not followed through properly (e.g. speeches on Korea and East Asia parked under "The Inc Trippingly written, I laughed out loud at some of Bilahari's turns of phrase. Gave me a new perspective on the Korean Peninsula problem - does anyone really want reunification? My main bugbear is with the structure. This really isn’t designed to be read in one sitting. As others have pointed out, many ideas and turns of phrase are repeated across several speeches. The division of chapters is perfunctory and not followed through properly (e.g. speeches on Korea and East Asia parked under "The Incongruity of Singapore in Southeast Asia"). Part 3 in particular was quite discombobulating, containing almost no new material. To be clear, I don't think that’s the author’s fault, because someone else put this book together from his speeches. But it's a waste for this collection of zingers to be so badly let down by a poor editorial effort.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ryan J. King

    I'm a Northeast Asia specialist, and this book was my intro to Southeast Asian and especially Singaporean foreign policy and international relations. I enjoyed it a lot, speaking as someone that was learning a completely new perspective. I would have liked to see more on the konfrontasi with Indonesia and the separation from Malaysia, personally speaking. One thing to be aware of is that it a collection of speeches and lectures. Like many speakers, Mr Kausikan has a number of themes and tropes th I'm a Northeast Asia specialist, and this book was my intro to Southeast Asian and especially Singaporean foreign policy and international relations. I enjoyed it a lot, speaking as someone that was learning a completely new perspective. I would have liked to see more on the konfrontasi with Indonesia and the separation from Malaysia, personally speaking. One thing to be aware of is that it a collection of speeches and lectures. Like many speakers, Mr Kausikan has a number of themes and tropes that he used over and over again in talks, which unfortunately creates a repetitive feel when converted into book form. Expect to hear a handful of arguments over and over again, and in the middle of the book wonder if you've 'already read this chapter' a few times. Still highly enjoyable though - would recommend to PoliSci and IR majors looking for a primer in how things 'really work' in the diplomatic world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Seifried

    This book was difficult to get through. I was committed as I wanted to understand more of the author’s ideas, but I was frustrated at how poorly it was edited and compiled. It’s truly just a reprint of speeches (very loosely categorized, sometimes nonsensically). It would have benefited immensely from some light editing and compilation (introduction to sections, speeches, footnotes for key acts or acronyms for those of us not intimately familiar with the inner workings of foreign policy...). Oth This book was difficult to get through. I was committed as I wanted to understand more of the author’s ideas, but I was frustrated at how poorly it was edited and compiled. It’s truly just a reprint of speeches (very loosely categorized, sometimes nonsensically). It would have benefited immensely from some light editing and compilation (introduction to sections, speeches, footnotes for key acts or acronyms for those of us not intimately familiar with the inner workings of foreign policy...). Otherwise, the thoughts and ideas are mostly interesting and I enjoyed hearing the authors perspective on Singapore’s place in a complex world. Bonus points for thought provoking analysis on Asian powers - China, Japan, Korea.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tin Wee

    I've always enjoyed Mr Bilahari's presentations and pieces, and this book will not disappoint if you read it like you would a box of chocolates, ie, take small bits at a time. His views on Singapore's place in the world, navigating ASEAN, great power relations, and deep trends changing the world we live in are clearly presented here in his classic style. However, as it is a compilation of his works across time, there are several pints which he must have felt strongly about and repeated across va I've always enjoyed Mr Bilahari's presentations and pieces, and this book will not disappoint if you read it like you would a box of chocolates, ie, take small bits at a time. His views on Singapore's place in the world, navigating ASEAN, great power relations, and deep trends changing the world we live in are clearly presented here in his classic style. However, as it is a compilation of his works across time, there are several pints which he must have felt strongly about and repeated across various forums- often leading to an odd sense of deja vu if you read too many chapters at once. Nonetheless, an insightful read which I enjoyed. Recommended, but don't read too much at one go.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Choong Chiat

    This book is a compilation of Kausikan's past speeches and essays. So those who are familiar with him would already be familiar with his candid, provocative, pragmatic and realist views on issues. That said, I would still recommend those familiar with Kausikan's views to read this book as it serves as a good distillation of his views (another book to read would be the compilation of lectures he gave at LKYSPP-IPS). For those unfamiliar with Kausikan's views or interested in international affairs This book is a compilation of Kausikan's past speeches and essays. So those who are familiar with him would already be familiar with his candid, provocative, pragmatic and realist views on issues. That said, I would still recommend those familiar with Kausikan's views to read this book as it serves as a good distillation of his views (another book to read would be the compilation of lectures he gave at LKYSPP-IPS). For those unfamiliar with Kausikan's views or interested in international affairs, I highly recommend this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Guanhui

    Incisive, ruthless, and pragmatic analysis of realpolitik, peppered with insightful and memorable anecdotes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Udbhav Jatia

    Solid overview of the fudamental principles underpinning Singapore’s foreign policy in view of the larger shifts taking place in the region/world.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Victor

    Broad range of incisive no-holds-barred observations from a career foreign service officer who's been in the diplomatic trenches. The author's acerbic wit shines through.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mavis Chan

    Highly insightful essays on international affairs and Singapore’s foreign policy. An astute assessment of the problems that the world and countries face and why.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chen Ann Siew

    Bilahari strips away the hypocrisy and political-correctness typical of international relations and foreign policy to lay bare what's ultimately crucial to Singapore's interests. Interesting read, though ideas and sometimes even the exact words were repeated several times throughout the collection of essays and speeches.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Filbert Lam

    An illuminating excursus of Singapore's approach to foreign policy. Bilahari's attempt to dispel the myth of universality, in particular, is forceful but not yet persuasive. He is encumbered by his conflation of "universality" with "absolutism" (see, in particular, the vicinity of page 245). Universally-held values may or may not be absolute. For instance, very few people hold the view that there should be absolute, unfettered freedom of speech. This is true even in the United States. However, i An illuminating excursus of Singapore's approach to foreign policy. Bilahari's attempt to dispel the myth of universality, in particular, is forceful but not yet persuasive. He is encumbered by his conflation of "universality" with "absolutism" (see, in particular, the vicinity of page 245). Universally-held values may or may not be absolute. For instance, very few people hold the view that there should be absolute, unfettered freedom of speech. This is true even in the United States. However, it will, equally, not be surprising to say that this restricted (i.e. non-absolute) freedom of speech is thought to be a value which is either is or should be universally accepted. Whether this acceptance is a reality or remains an aspiration is the subject of an entirely different debate. Disappointingly, the force of Bilahari's arguments are undercut and plagued by the occasional factual error. For instance, at p. 135, he mistakenly claims that Singapore's balance of payments is valued at 300 times of her GDP. (The correct figure should be in the vicinity of 350%!) In other areas, his criticism of the European status quo is delivered with an unjustified tone of temerity. One example can be found on p. 280, where he claims that the EU's vision of Europe is riddled with "internal contradictions" evinced by a "substantial number of Europeans". He cites, in support of his argument, the rise of the extreme right-wing and anti-EU movements. With respect to Bilahari, he is overzealous in his criticism of the EU. He does not extend the EU the same latitude that he offers ASEAN and other Asian nations. Indeed, he ignores the fact that whilst some European states are major exporters of irony, such extremist views have never found much traction in Europe (see, for instance, the failed bids of Marie Le Pen and Geert Wilders). To conclude, Bilahari's views should not be ignored. There is much truth in his analyses of ASEAN and the geopolitical environment of Southeast Asia. However, his views should be rigourously scrutinised.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tadas Jon

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hugh MacNab

  16. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chew Qinyi

  18. 4 out of 5

    jessie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tan Jing

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chiang Fong

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hobbes

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aik Lim

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Goh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Clement Neo

  26. 4 out of 5

    W

  27. 5 out of 5

    Li

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kishen Kumar

  29. 5 out of 5

    Frederick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Tan

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